Made Another Masterpiece While I Was Dreaming
This is where we are. This is the pervasive bliss wrought from a once sacrosanct football team torn down to its knees, scarred, scabbed, audaciously wiping the blood from its lip with a dirty shirtsleeve while it looks you in the eye and asks if that’s all you’ve got. My lawn desperately needs to be mowed and I sit here eating a bag of stale tortilla chips, a jar of Newman’s Own salsa, and some Gordon’s vodka pulled from a dusty cabinet I only recently discovered. I’m not sure where my life is going or how it got here but I know for a day I am content. I’d almost forgotten this feeling and so did you. But I remember it now.
They are consumed by the prospect of proving everyone wrong; the masses are impulsive and scared and entrenched in a lifestyle that drinks old wines, groans when you stand, and sees football as a rite of passage and not a galvanizing triumph in the face of everyone who thought Michigan had lost its soul. I guess I'm included in that last part. But it can be all of that. It has been before. These players are playing in part to protect someone who many never thought too highly of to begin with. They know of no limits, no expectations, just that it takes a while to forget 3-9 and the infinite pain of a season that was over before it began.
This season was supposed to be a bunch of brooding young men with nothing to lose drawing up plays on the fattest lineman's stomach in the huddle, a little disoriented but scorned and eager. Things may not always end well but at least we know we're going in the right direction. Denard's run was that. But for a half they were competent and polished in a way we were willing to wait another year for. They were more than a gimmick, more than just an inspired moment. There is a revival, and I am not afraid to believe in it.
In a year the offense has gone from maddeningly ill-equipped to something organic, often daring and complex. Last year they grasped it as an ideal but performed it as a habit. There are four wide receivers and you’re in shotgun, stomp your foot and halfheartedly fake a draw to the chest of someone faster than you are. I don’t want to be here but it is Michigan so I’ll give it a try. It was like trying to teach a bunch of kindergarteners to ride a unicycle or tap-dance or juggle torches and it did not go well. They stumbled and burned themselves alive.
Even Carlos Brown, the wistful and frequently injured running back who runs conservatively despite his speed seemed more uninhibbited than usual. Tate is inventive and resourceful; he's confident enough to let plays develop, and if something goes wrong he knows how to salvage it. For now his arm is just good enough and he seems too boastful for a team that’s only now realizing it never needs to cower before anyone, but we’ll deal with that later. Michigan is undefeated for the first time since 2006. It was late November and Bo had died and there is a planet out there where other teams exist, I’m sure of it, but it’s hard to tell when you're in orbit by yourself. They were 11-0 and I wasn’t afraid of Ohio State.
And for now, there is a defense. We had been told their tackling was improved but during training camp that means little. It is true because you say it is and because I want it to be so. But on Saturday it was fact. You are Western Michigan and you will be ignored after today, but tomorrow you will know who we are. You will see Michigan on your elbows and your shins and eating your linemen alive in the corner of your eyes. You should throw the ball, really…throw it now, Tim Hiller. Brandon Graham is right there.
Saturday was small and possibly irrelevant but that doesn’t matter. Last year gave us little but Wisconsin, Steven Threet’s commendable march to oblivion and Brandon Minor’s martyrdom. The team we once knew vanished and went to a place somewhere high and far away and left us with nothing but the hope that this will end before it gets any worse. I know that, and I know what this isn’t. I know that this is familiar.